New speed limits enforced for high-risk Milford Rd

Published date05 August 2021
State Highway 94, from Te Anau to Milford Sound, was one of five stretches of state highway in New Zealand which had a persistently high personal risk throughout a 15-year period from 2002 to 2016, meaning the risk to an individual being involved in a crash was high.

Along the road is the 1.2km-long Homer Tunnel, built between 1935 and 1953.

Last year, the Government announced $25 million in funding for tunnel safety improvements through its rejuvenation package aimed at kick-starting the post-Covid-19 economic rebuild.

A Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency update on the upgrades to Inside Resources last month explains the project looked at options for a deluge (fire suppression) system, ventilation and pedestrian refuges within the tunnel along with a package of safety improvements.

At a cost of $3 million, the package of safety works had begun, which were the recommendations of an investigation into a car fire in the tunnel at the start of 2020.

While the other three options were investigated, the funding required went over the budget remaining of $22 million and it had to review another option to increase safety for road users and crew at the tunnel.

Subject to Crown Infrastructure Partners endorsement, it would proceed with letting the construction tender.

The new option involved the existing eastern avalanche shelter, the structure at the tunnel entrance, which had reached the end of its useful life.

The update explains the design was hoped to be completed this year with work to start in 2022.

Given the need to work around the avalanche season and the complexity of working in the extreme environment, the avalanche shelter would be completed in 2023.

Among documents obtained by the Southland Express, from April this year, an Avalanche Shelter Preliminary Options Assessment details the shelter could be extended by 60m to 120m within the available budget.

A near 35m-long reinforced concrete avalanche shelter was to provide avalanche protection to workers during construction of the tunnel.

It was originally about 150m long but had been damaged over the years, including by an avalanche in 1945.

The document states any of the proposed avalanche shelter options could be extended in the future and the estimated cost to construct the preferred option 50m beyond the portal, was between $7.5 million and $15 million.

Improvements to the plant room and relocation of equipment would cost between $2 million and $4 million.

‘‘Longer term, extending the avalanche shelter...

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